Skip to main content
4. Governments of large territories with relatively small and dispersed populations are less likely to be concerned with the negative economic, political, and social effects of population growth than are the governments of more densely populated regions. Indeed, given the high per capita cost of maintaining a bureaucracy in such countries, their capacity to carry out such policies as a family planning program may be small. Moreover, the disadvantages of population growth are likely to be overlooked by governing elites who often see population growth as a way of increasing military manpower, of reducing the per capita costs of government, and, more generally, of increasing national pride.*
5. Although numbers may be decreasing as a source of political power in the developed countries, their importance appears to be growing in those less developed areas where political participation is high. Moreover, numbers may be a more important factor in the politics of ethnicity than in the politics of class conflict: while the size of a socioeconomic class is determined by economic and technological circumstances, the size of ethnic groups is determined by their natural population increase or by migration. Hardly anyone would argue that the working class can increase its political power by having more babies, but there are those among religious, tribal, caste, and racial groups who argue for a pronatal policy or view programs to reduce fertility as politically threatening. For this reason, the politics of population policy, especially in the multi-ethnic, less developed countries, is much more bound up with issues of race, tribe, caste, and religion than with questions of class.
6. There are countries where the number of young men entering the labor force each year will be substantially larger than the number of job opportunities; the disparity may be particularly great if the labor force increases at a time when agricultural mechanization has diminished the need for labor and there has not been a rapid rise in those industries which require a large labor force. In such an economy there may be strong pressures to expand university education to postpone entry into the labor force, pressures to expand employment in the government bureaucracy and the public sector generally, and pressures on businesses to employ the largest number of people which the firm can possibly sustain rather than the minimum necessary to maximize profit; a work ethic which stresses the sharing of employment rather than efficiency in performance is likely to persist; and new opportunities may be provided for political organizers who view the unemployed as a potential political constituency.
7. If, as some social scientists have argued, a high mortality rate leads individuals to be fatalistic about the future, reduces their willingness to try to manipulate their environment, and strengthens religious as opposed to secular
*Since it is a vast subject in itself, this paper has not dealt with the impact of political ideologies or religious doctrine on family planning programs. For a review of the literature and a useful bibliography, see (76-78). much of the literature on the political behavior of urban migrants, see (62).